The recent discovery of baby factories in various parts of the country has become a source of concern to Nigerians who believe that the federal and state governments are not doing enough to stem the embarrassing trend
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Apr. 21, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
IT IS like a fairy tale on everybody’s lips. In the last few months, the story has been the same. From Abeokuta in Ogun State to Ekiti in Ekiti State, and to Uyo in Akwa Ibom State, the story is the emergence of baby factories in different parts of the country where young girls are being used as surrogate mothers. The rate at which these settlements are discovered is not only baffling but also alarming and, as well, questions the integrity and pre-emptive role of Nigeria’s security agencies in nipping the ignoble business in the bud.
One of the latest of such factories was discovered in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Thursday, April 3. The bubble burst when one of the inmates of the illegal settlement escaped from a building in the ancient town and raised an alarm that people should save her. The lady, who claimed to have come from Abia State, alleged that her elder sister sold her to the people in the suspected building for N100,000. The matter was reported at the Adigbe Police Divisional office and, thereafter, the victim was taken to a nearby hospital. The police have since searched the building, where three other pregnant women and five children were rescued.
When information filtered to residents living around the area about the nefarious activity in the building, the youths took the law into their hands by setting fire to the place. It took the intervention of the police to stop them from causing more damage. The youths also refused to disperse until the police used tear-gas canisters to forcibly scatter them. Eyewitnesses said that the youths initially thought that the building was a ritual den hence their reason for forcefully breaking into it and setting two vehicles and one storey building ablaze. Among the items found at the premises were a blood filled basin, a coffin, assorted charms and other fetish items. Abimbola Oyeyemi, Ogun command’s deputy police public relations officer, said two suspects were arrested in connection with the incident. Oyeyemi said the suspects, one Muibat Yusuf and her brother, claimed to be indigenes of Kwara State.
About two weeks earlier, eight pregnant women and teenage girls were rescued by the police at another suspected baby factory in Akute, Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State. In the process, the police also arrested a middle aged man and a 26-year-old woman responsible for the running of the centre. While parading the suspects at the Ajuwon divisional police headquarters, Ikemefuna Okoye, commissioner of police in the state, described the development as inhuman, insisting that the command would get to the root of the matter. Angela Chigoeze, 26, one of the arrested suspects, claimed to be operating a divine herbal clinic at the place. According to the police chief, Chigoeze was the one responsible for selling of the babies, which she confirmed when she told the press: “If they give birth, I will sell the child for N300,000. I sell it to women who cannot give birth.”
The Ogun State raid was still fresh in the minds of many people when the Delta State police command informed the public that it had discovered another baby making factory in the outskirts of Asaba, the state capital. According to Celestina Kalu, the state command’s police public relations officer, police officers smashed the baby factory which was located in a large compound and arrested a 40-year-old woman who was running it. Like what obtained in other centres, 10 pregnant girls were found in the building. Many of them claimed that the woman had promised to buy their babies for undisclosed amounts after delivery.
In February, Akwa Ibom State police command had arrested one Grace Akpan, a prophetess and owner of Jubilant Garden Ministries, for allegedly operating a baby factory. Akpan was arrested alongside five young ladies and four men around 4:00am on Friday, February 21, at the supposed baby factory on High Tension Street, Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo. Umar Gwadabe, state commissioner of police, said that Akpan operated the baby factory under the guise of running a religious organisation, Jubilant Garden Ministries. He explained that Akpan accommodated teenage ladies and young men for the purpose of raising babies for sale and human trafficking.
Said the police commissioner: “Following an intelligence report, which was monitored by the State Criminal Investigation Department operatives, a woman, Prophetess Grace Akpan, was arrested at about 4am on High Tension Street by Four Lane, Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo. The woman was arrested for operating a baby factory under the guise of a religious organisation called Jubilant Garden Ministries, where teenagers and young men were housed for the sole purpose of raising babies for sale and human trafficking. In view of some reported cases of child stealing and abduction of children in the state, we have resolved to act decisively by arresting these criminals. They will soon appear in court to serve as deterrent to others.”
The girls found in custody of Akpan were Blessing Paul, 14 (pregnant); Patience Etim, 17 (pregnant); Margaret Effiong, 20 (pregnant); Emmanuelle Effiong, 18 (pregnant) and Esther Effiong, 21, who had already given birth to a male child named Unos Effiong (one year). The male suspects were Ndifreke Umana 31, Ezekiel Umana 29, Godstime Johnson 18, and Ukeme Etim 20.
But Akpan has insisted that she had not committed any crime. She claimed that the pregnant girls were married and were brought to the church by their parents for spiritual assistance. “They (the police) said people told them that I have so many pregnant women in my care and that they don’t know the reason. For goodness’ sake, I am a trained birth attendant. I have a certificate from St. Louis Hospital. The pregnant women were brought to the church by their parents, who saw that their problems could only be resolved spiritually. Some had swollen legs, some of them were bleeding before their parents brought them to us. Some of them were brought to the church by their husbands,” she said. Whatever is the true situation, when the case goes to court as promised by the police, what appears to be hidden would be unveiled.
In the meantime, the shocking testimonies from various parts of the country point to the fact that baby factories are gradually becoming a booming trade in Nigeria. What started as a hush-hush affair, has become a monumental national embarrassment and a huge moral burden. Hardly does a week pass